Future Radio Presents the Final of the Next Big Thing 2013 at OPEN in Norwich, 9th November 2013, review and photos.
The finalists of the 2013 Next Big Thing included The Thinking Men, Dr Clyde, Koi Paraga, Mega Emotion, Unix, and Freyr, with an appearance by last year’s winner, the delightful and supremely talented Raevennan Husbandes.
Due to the late 5:30pm kick off I had to make a frantic dash from Carrow Road where an extraordinary game took place (with Norwich against all the odds, turning a 1-0 half-time deficit into a 3-1 win) and I was in something of a state of shock as I arrived at Open. This was to be my first time in the main hall, so joining the queue I saw a few familiar faces and then made my way into this mightily impressive, large venue. The bar seemed a little light on staff but here too was an opportunity to chat to some friends and take in the surroundings.
First to take to the stage were the much admired and respected Koi Paraga. My three favourites to win tonight were obviously the three acts I knew best, of which Koi Paraga were one (Dr Clyde and The Thinking Men being the other two). Being about a quarter to eight this was a fairly early start and with some people still arriving and others still at the bar the main floor was nevertheless reasonably full but perhaps the acoustics did not do them many favours although they still sounded interesting, original and beautifully warm – they seemed to go down very well with everyone listening.
The following acts were Freyr, an indie power pop band. Unix, a lad playing some very loud dance music seemingly from behind a laptop, and Mega Emotion who are formed from a couple of members of Bearsuit. I hadn’t heard any of these acts before so wasn’t really familiar with their material.
The penultimate band were my most anticipated, the fascinatingly eclectic and charismatic Dr. Clyde. I had a number of friends in attendance who were seeing and hearing them for the first time so after enthusing about them I was interested learn their reactions. Pleasingly it was all very positive. I’m not sure the band played their most ‘immediate’ songs but they went down a storm with those in the by now sizable audience at the front. One of the things I love about this band is their unpredictability, I have never heard two sets that are even close to each other. Setlists are sometimes abandoned or radically altered, tempo and mood always changing and even tonight they did not do what could have been called the obvious ones. I love them for this, the wonderful charisma and the rootsy, soulful way I feel their music and the freedom and expressive way in which they play it
I’m not entirely sure of the criteria by which the judges vote but for originality and inventiveness incorporated into great songs then I felt Dr Clyde and Koi Paraga were well up there at the top. If it’s for a slick, professional and ready-packaged and marketable act with commercial potential then The Thinking Men would probably be the favourites. Having some killer songs, a strong image and an energetic set they were surely the biggest threat to Koi Paraga and my personal favourites, Dr Clyde.
When the Thinking Men took to the stage for their set they were greeted rapturously by their fans in their t-shirts and blistered into the anthemic single Pied Piper. Undeterred by a few technical hitches they completed an energetic set to rousing applause. You know what you are going to get with TTM but they do it brilliantly and flawlessly with great energy. With gruff vocals barked in the manner of Tom Waits after listening to too much Nick Cave the songs do go around the head for a good while after. It felt at the end of the set that we had just witnessed the winners.
Whilst the judges made their decisions we were treated to a short set by the delightful and charming winner of last year’s event, the brilliant Raevennan Husbandes. Coming onstage with a cup of tea in a Penfold “crikey!” mug, she regaled us with some anecdotes and at some point must have spilled some water or tea as the next thing we saw was Rick Lennox crawling around clearing up the spillage! Raevennan played a short but exquisite set, her beautiful voice winning over many new admirers, as always.
After this Rick came back onstage to introduce Kate Roma of Future Radio who was to announce the winners. She said it had all been very close but in third place was Dr Clyde (this announcement was met with some obvious disapproval in the audience, who felt they should have been higher), in second place was Mega Emotion and they were just pipped by The Thinking Men. Their fans were ecstatic at this news and the band came back onstage for another celebratory rendition of Pied Piper.
A fascinating evening. I’d never attended anything like this and the competitive element to seeing bands felt rather alien but certainly interesting. I hope none of the acts were too disappointed as they all played really well and absolutely all of them were exposed to a wider audience and new fans. The line up was so diverse it would have been a surprise for someone to love everything but I certainly heard great compliments in the audience for every one of the acts. Congratulations to The Thinking Men, who worked extremely hard, performed a faultless set, and I think on the night probably deserved the title, and a big well done to all of the other finalists. I wish everyone much success.
It was also a great pleasure to see these bands in such a marvellous venue, it’s about time Norwich had a venue of this sort of capacity and with these facilities in its centre. Next week it hosts a Bo Nanafana night featuring Imelda May. To say I cannot wait would be a massive understatement!
Many thanks to Rick Lennox and all the staff at the venue for their kindness in allowing me the freedom to take photos.
words and photos © all rights reserved, richard shashamane 2013